Team Mowgli on a charge

British double handers heading for the top spot in the Portimao Global Ocean Race

Friday December 19th 2008, Author: Brian Hancock, Location: United Kingdom
The British team of Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson have a bone between their teeth and are on a rip for the top spot in the doublehanded division of Leg 2 of the Portimão Global Ocean Race. At the 11:20 UTC poll Team Mowgli was the fastest boat in the fleet averaging over 9 knots. They were also the most southern boat in the fleet sailing along at 43 degrees south.

50 miles to the north of Team Mowgli current class leader Beluga Racer was not enjoying the conditions and co-skippers Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme were on a painful gybe to the south in the hope of cutting in front of the Brits. Their chances do not look good and by the end of play Friday there could well be a leaderboard change.

From the outset Salvesen and Thomson have opted to head south as quickly as possible to get into the Roaring Forties. In fact for a few days they were sailing west of south while their competition were all sailing an easterly course and looking good on a distance-to-go basis. It takes some nerve to stick to your convictions especially when you are dropping miles to the leaders at an alarming rate, but they have stuck with it and are now reaping the dividends.

While Beluga Racer and Desafio Cabo de Hornos are being forced into sailing a less than perfect course as the wind goes light on the edge of a small high pressure zone, Team Mowgli has maintained a perfect track down the outside of the same high pressure and has kept a consistent pace closing the deficit from over 50 miles, to just 18 at the last poll.

Sailing his own race well to the north and east, Belgium sailor Michel Kleinjans continues to be the on-the-water race leader. He has opted for a very different strategy from the rest of the fleet and holding firm to his opinion that he is on the right track.

“I am trying to get as far east as possible before tacking and going more to the south,” he wrote. “I am expecting that the wind will back to the north when a quickly moving high pressure passes under us. It will be interesting to see where we will all end up in a few days. It’s a difficult gamble but I am not sure if I would like to be south at the moment.”

Kleinjans is a shrewd sailor and the only skipper to have sailed a Southern Ocean leg. He is also a modest sailor and in a parting comment in his email he added “this is only my view of course.”

Kleinjans aboard Roaring Forty is the only boat not in the Roaring Forties but all the boats are experiencing conditions typical of the region. The skies have turned grey to match the colour of the ocean and an occasional wandering albatross cruises by casting a beady eye on the sailors as they head deeper into southern waters. The forecast westerly winds from a low pressure system failed to materialise as the system tracked to the south of east instead of the predicted north of east, but it won’t be long before they get to feel the brunt of a Southern Ocean storm.In Cape Town Lenjohn and Peter van der Wel have a team of experts assembled to assess their mast problems. They will consult with the experts as well as Race Director Josh Hall to decide on their next move.

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